Rum Connoisseur Interview of The Week ROBERTO BERCEDIA La Factoria Puerto Rico

Rum Connoisseur
Interview of The Week

Roberto Berdecia



1. Who is Roberto Berdecía?

My name is Roberto Berdecía from Puerto Rico, part of the team of La Factoría, Jungle Bird, Caneca and Licorería Miramar. I started in the hospitality industry at 16 years old in a Japanese restaurant as a barback/busboy/runner to pay for my bills and college. After a year, I moved to a high-volume bar where I remained for 5 years and took part in all the rolls in that restaurant/bar. In 2008 I took various bartenders certifications between Puerto Rico and Peru and that same year I started in a new restaurant. Afterwards I began to compete in every competition I could, to further learn about techniques, flavors and presentation.

In 2011, I won World Class Puerto Rico and went to India to compete. There I realized that we had a lot to learn and as soon as I came back I started to discuss this situation with one of the distributors to conduct seminars and presentations. In 2012, Leslie Cofresí won WC PR and when we came back from Basil we talked about opening our own bar. In 2013, Pablo Rodriguez acquired a space in Old San Juan that fit what we were looking for and we opened 2 weeks after. La Factoría grew up organically, what started with one bar in a corner is now on the way to finish our seventh bar. In 2016, Jungle Bird was born, a tropical leisure cocktail bar located in La Placita de Santurce; and Caneca which is a transportable cocktail bar built into an “Airstream”.


2. Biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplish for the rum industry.

In PR we have Don Q rum, which made me fall in love with the rum industry. During all the years of studying, learning and reading, rum became my favorite spirit and every year even more so. Serrallés distillery just won a Renewable Energy Implementation by Drink business. They strive to become more environmentally conscious every day. They do water reclamation with aerobic and anaerobic digesters; water is treated to water golf courses instead of sending it to the ocean. This was designed by Roberto Serrallés who also uses old barrels to make mulch on for the soil and landscaping.


3. What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?

I love to try different rums from distilleries. My favorite achievement is the ability to acknowledge good rums whose distillery is environmentally friendly and upholds the principals of legitimate rum making without adding excessive quantities of caramel, sugar or dyes. Therefore feeling satisfied and excited to promote and back their brand.


4.    What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?

Rum, as some other spirits, can be made around the world which makes it a versatile spirit and sets each one apart from the other. I love to try different rums/rhums that can go from white to dark, light to funky or over proof to spiced or flavored. There is no bad rum, there is only different styles of rum.


5. Favorite Drink + Recipe

Piña Colada
1.5 oz. Don Q Gold rum
1.5 oz. homemade coconut rum
2 oz. of freshly made pineapple juice
dash Angostura
dash of lime juiceShake, serve in a goblet glass with pebble ice and garnish with umbrella, maraschino cherry and dehydrated pineapple.

6. Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?

Rum/rhum is growing very fast around the world. Every year a lot of rums/rhums come out to market and this makes a big evolution in all the products. For example, you can find rums that can compete with vodka, cognac, whiskey, whisky, etc. There are also rums finished in barrels of vermouth, sherry, whiskey, etc. The growth of tropical/tiki bars that have rum as a main attraction creates a high demand for rum. In 5 years I speculate that rum will continue growing in every market. I hope this comes in with efficient and responsible ways to create less waste.

7. What do you think needs to happen to grow the premium category of rum?

Little by little the premium rum category has been growing. Maybe making premium rum a little more accessible by lowering the price of the bottle but not the product itself.

8. Which rum would you recommend a person that:

a. Sipping a premium rum for the 1st time

Ron Zacapa 23 – This is a good rum for beginners to start sipping a premium rum because of the sweets notes as vanilla, toffee, coffee and chocolate. They also sport their XO rum finished in cognac barrels.b. Likes Scotch Whisky

Abuelo XV – This rum has a finish in oloroso sherry casks which makes it a little drier similar to a scotch. It’s made in Panama.c. Likes Bourbon

El Dorado 12 years – It has less time in bourbon barrels than usual thus making it less sweet while retaining its bourbon flavors. It’s distilled from demerara sugar and aged in Guyana.

d. Likes Gin or Vodka
The Scarlet Ibis – It’s a 49% but has a bouquet of botanicals and fruits that came be compared to some gins. It’s aged for 3 to 5 years and made in Trinidad.

e.    Likes Cognac
Don Q Vermouth Cask Finish – It’s the first in his kind. A rum aged from 5 to 8 years and finished from 4 to 6 weeks in a 600 liter Mancino Vecchio Vermouth Italian Oak casks. It’s made in Ponce, Puerto Rico.


9. Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have help you.

David Wondrich – We have meet a couple of times in La Factoría and other conventions. I don’t talk to him too much, but all his books and researches bring something spectacular to think about, not just in the rum industry.

Alexx Mouzouris – This guy knows how to be a professional with a lot of knowledge that he likes to pass on, but he hasn’t lost his party spirit. I’v learn a lot from him.

Hidetsugu Ueno San – A legendary Tokyo bartender and bar owner has taught me one of the most important things in our industry; Consistency. Not just on creating a cocktail but also in every other aspect of a bar/bartender.

10. What 3-5 things do you have in your bucket list for the next 12 months?

a. Visit at least 1 distillery.
b. Visit some bars in places I haven’t visited yet.
c. Go to 1 Rum Fest.
d. Finish the expansion of Licorería Miramar.
e. Keep bringing something special to our guest in La Factoría, Jungle Bird and Caneca

11. Any last words?

I like to thank every bartender, master blender, master distiller, master brewer, barbacks, owners, in general, every body that supports cocktails, spirits and bars, including and specially GUESTS, because without them we wouldn’t be able to create so many new and different things. Also thanks to The Rum Lab for this interview.

12. How can people learn more about you? Website? Social Media Page?

This year, I have been nominated as bartender of the year by International Rum Conference. You can vote in Facebook through “Semana Del Coctél Con Ron”. You can find me in Facebook by Roberto Berdecia Pérez and in Instagram @watercocktail


Author: Jose Hoffmann

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